An Interview With Esseks: A Brooklyn Artist of Sound & Illustration
ZF: How long have you been making music?
Esseks: I've been making music for about 8 years. When I was in high school I played guitar in a band and got really into just recording songs by myself on Protools. I pretty much wanted to be Omar Rodriguez Lopez from the Mars Volta. My little brother had a bass and my dad had an electronic drumset so I would try and play all of the instruments and sing. I don't think the music was that good but I had fun making it. I wasn't really into electronic music until I started college in 2009 . It was then that I started hearing stuff like the Glitch Mob, Pretty Lights, and Bassnectar. It took a while before I actually started to produce good beats. I've always enjoyed writing songs so I think I just naturally started to lean toward electronic music. I think it was only a matter of time before I was going to start making music on my computer, it's just the fastest way to get ideas out.
ZF: Besides Esseks, I know that you are a founding member and guitarist of Brooklyn based band Technicolor Lenses, when did you guys form and have you been writing any new music?
Esseks: I started Technicolor Lenses with Jackson Whalan in college during 2011. We've got some new tunes. We recently got to track drums and vocals in a studio, so that will be released in the near future. Right now we're all pretty busy with our own careers but we all still live near each other and have fun making music together.
ZF: You’re a multi-talented artist, where did you attend school and what did you major in?
Esseks: I got my BFA at Parsons for Illustration. I've always wanted to do something creative and originally I thought graphic design was a realistic thing to make a living from while still being creative. When I started doing graphic design courses I realized that I wasn't going to do any painting or any of the hands-on stuff I actually enjoyed. All of the work felt about as fun to me as math, and it was all on computers. I switched to illustration because I got to paint and make the kind of art I really enjoyed. Ironically, I now do most of my work on a computer all day when I'm making music. I was always putting off my art school work to make beats and now that I'm out of school painting is fun again. I like making art and album covers for my friends. I'm mostly focused on music lately but it all comes hand in hand. I've gotten to do some cool stuff with my art through the music scene, like drawing a head of lettuce for the Lettuce.
ZF: I understand that your main focus has become Esseks as you’ve been regularly performing shows and festival slots this year. What projects are you currently working on as Esseks?
Esseks: I've got an EP of really new stuff I'm about to put out soon. Other than that I've been making a bunch of these little 6x6 inch watercolor paintings and I'm thinking about releasing a bunch of singles with each painting. I like playing songs out for a bit before I release em because it keeps the live set more fresh, but I've been sitting on a lot of stuff that I think I'm ready to put out, so there should be a lot of new music out soon.
ZF: Over the past year, you have made some huge strides as a performing artist; what are some specific sets that stand out to you?
Esseks: Probably the last two times I played at CoSM - Camp Bisco meant a lot to me since it was definitely something I've wanted to do for a long time. Getting to play for a sold out U Street Music Hall opening for Space Jesus my first time in DC was also pretty awesome.
ZF: I know you’re part of Smokers Cough and Planet Cognac, what’s it like working with other talented artists that are on the same wavelength as you?
Esseks: It's great getting to do what you love with your friends, making music and playing shows wouldn't be fun without them.
ZF: Who are your biggest influences as a producer of psychedelic bass music?
Esseks: It's hard to say - The Mars Volta, Tipper, Pretty Lights, Gramatik, John Frusciante, Nosaj Thing, EPROM, G Jones, Ott, and all of my friends that make music have served as inspiration at one point or another. Lately I've been finding new inspiration - I find new artists I like all the time online, so it's less specific nowadays.
ZF: Where did you see yourself one year ago? Where do you see yourself one year from now?
Esseks: Still working at my desk, but hopefully touring a little more often.
ZF: What are some festivals that you would love to play at in the future?
Esseks: I've heard a lot of great things about Shambala and Lightning in a Bottle.
ZF: If somebody who has never listened to you music contacted you for a recommendation, what would you tell them to listen to?
Esseks: Depends on the person. I think some of my stuff is a little on the heavier, weirder side while other songs are written from my guitarist brain and are prettier, and less grotesque. Lately I've been more into the gnarly ugly sounds. I don't listen to metal much anymore, but I've got a soft spot for all things heavy.
ZF: I know that you have been working with Space Jesus a lot; do you guys have any new music coming out before 2016?
Esseks: I did a remix for one of his songs HMU that he's putting out soon. Other than that, we don't really have anything locked down. We've worked on a few things I think he's putting into his own releases, but I'm not sure when those are coming out. We rarely plan on making a track together - it's usually just something that happens organically because we're hanging out and it's something fun to do
ZF: I know that you also do all of the graphic design work for your albums, is art as important to you as music is?
Esseks: I wouldn't say it's more or less important, I love doing both. They each give me a way to stay creative, without getting burnt out. I've found that working on something when your totally burnt out isn't productive if the passion isn't there. Listening to a podcast and doing some art is a nice way of getting away from music for a bit, so when it's time to work on a beat, it's exciting and doesn't feel forced.